Centura, which operates 15 hospitals in Colorado, says that it’ll stop hiring workers who smoke cigarettes starting on Jan. 1. The Denver Postreports that the hospital chain will begin testing job applicants for tobacco in their systems.
A number of hospitals in the country have enacted similar bans, most notably the Cleveland Clinic in 2007. Hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, among others, also engage in the practice.
Hospitals cite reduced medical costs and the added need for a health practitioner to embrace a healthy lifestyle as reasons behind the ban. Smokers are not protected from workplace discrimination under federal laws, but 29 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect smokers. California is one of them, but so too is Colorado. According to legal experts, the Colorado law would only protect those already on staff, but not new hires.
Should hospitals be allowed to ban the hiring of smokers? What are the drawbacks? What are the benefits?
Lewis Maltby, President National Workrights Institute, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to employment rights based in New Jersey
Patrick Reynolds, Executive Director of Tobaccofree.org and the Foundation for a Smoke Free America based in Los Angeles